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Breast cancer patients denied 43p-a-day life-saving drug

02 October 2017 08:02

According to UK figures, there are 691,000 women with breast cancer

According to UK figures, there are 691,000 women with breast cancer

A thousand lives a year could be saved by a breast cancer drug that is being denied to women in various parts of the UK.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has found that only one in five Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England fund bisphosphonates as part of routine treatment of breast cancer, despite costing just 43p-a-day.

Studies show that post-menopausal women who are prescribed the life-saving drug within six months of initial diagnosis see the chance of it spreading to their bones drop by 28%.

'Dereliction of duty'

The FOI data has been obtained by Breast Cancer Now.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: "In bisphosphonates, we have a simple and cost-effective chance to cut 10% of all UK breast cancer deaths, using drugs already at the NHS' disposal.

"That this is not being taken is nothing short of a dereliction of duty".

Nationwide availability of bisphosphonates could save the NHS up to £5 million each year, research shows.

Rob Coleman, professor of medical oncology at the University of Sheffield, has called the drug a "safe and inexpensive treatment" and says the money saved could be reinvested into other parts of the NHS.

"The inability of NHS England to action this treatment across the country is totally unacceptable," he added.

Halted progress

A study by the charity also suggests the number of women turning up for mammograms is declining, and those with the condition are waiting longer for treatment.

Recovery figures suggest a "worrying plateau in progress" for NHS treatment, the Baroness added.

The charity is urging the NHS to take "immediate action" and ensure eligible women across the country have access to the life-saving drug.

Responding to the research, a Department of Health spokesman says the NHS has made "huge progress on tackling cancer", saying survival rates have increased by around 7,000 more women since 2014.

He added: "Any decision to prescribe treatments is a matter for clinicians and should be based on a patient's need and the best available evidence."

Those suffering from existing health problems such as breast cancer and other cancers can get added peace of mind when planning holidays by taking out pre-existing medical travel insurance.